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Franklin Park Zoo veterinary team utilizing laser therapy to relieve joint inflammation in two animals


Recently, inside the barn at Franklin Farm, Leia, a Nigerian dwarf goat, calmly sat with a member of her care team while a veterinary technician pointed a laser at her front leg in the hopes that it would provide some relief from her chronic arthritis. The procedure only lasted a short time, and throughout Leia, who was wearing protective glasses, was extremely relaxed and a model patient.

Leia, age 11, has resided at Franklin Park Zoo since 2015, and is experiencing age-related advanced arthritis which is affecting her mobility. The Zoo’s veterinary team is administering regular laser treatments in the hopes that it will provide some arthritic relief and improve her mobility.

Leia isn’t the only animal receiving laser treatment. Wub, a 12-year-old ostrich who has resided at Franklin Park Zoo since 2011, is also receiving regular laser treatments. Following a recent exam under anesthesia to evaluate a swollen joint, the zoo’s veterinary team determined that the swelling was likely due to inflammation and changes to Wub’s leg bone in that area. While she has remained in her behind the scenes space due to some lameness, she has shown incremental improvements. To prepare her for the laser treatments, Wub’s committed care team has been desensitizing her to having the affected joint touched while she receives treatment. Leia is more amenable to the treatment and doesn’t require any training; she simply sits relaxed in the lap of one her care team members.

“Both patients are responding well to the treatment, which is a new experience for them,” said Dr. Chris Bonar, Zoo New England Director of Animal Health. “This is a testament to the high level of trust and comfort the animals have with their devoted care team. Being able to provide this advanced medical treatment will go a long way in improving their overall health.”

Laser therapy is a non-invasive and painless procedure that harnesses the power of light energy to reduce inflammation. The laser equipment is on loan from New England Aquarium.

During the laser therapy sessions, Leia and Wub receive precise, targeted applications of therapeutic laser light, which penetrate deep into the affected tissues. Staff have been encouraged by the initial results and are hopeful that this treatment will continue to be beneficial to these animals.